Friday, October 13, 2006

Is "Googleable" a word?

Who's asking: Scott Lavinder

In a similar vein, Anna Bragdon asks whether she can use "overnight" as a verb, as in "I'm overnighting this package to Boston," and someone (maybe Jen Lechner?) asked about the use of "RSVP" as a verb.

I used to be pretty fierce in my opposition to using nouns or adjectives as verbs, and to creating new words from brand names. I still don't like to use "contact" as a verb, although that definition is now in the dictionary.

But English is the Jabba the Hutt of world languages; it devours everything in its path, sucking in words from every other culture and making things up if it can't find anything to serve.

I believe that "Google" is now in some dictionaries as a verb. Nevertheless, I'm ruling against "Googleable," because "to Google" means "to research something online, using the Google search engine," and you wouldn't say something was "researchable," or (even worse) "investigatible."

"Overnight" as a verb is marginally okay, I think, in the sense that we already use "summer" as a verb -- "Are you summering in Maine this year?" "Yes, and wintering there too."

But I draw the line at "RSVP" as a verb. RSVP is an abbreviation for the French phrase Répondez s’il vous plaît -- respond, if you please -- and so, if you want to say that you've responded, say you've responded, not that you've "RSVP'd." Two syllables instead of four, and you're correct, to boot.

Nothing is more disgusting than a head cold, and I am sitting here surrounded by Kleenex and Theraflu and glasses of ginger ale. I disgust myself so profoundly I may just have to throw a blanket over my head and pass out for a few hours. Talk amongst yourselves. In the meantime, here's

What I Read This Week

Henry James, The Turn of the Screw. After Regina of The Toadstool Bookshop said this was her favorite book of all time, I thought I'd go back to it, so I borrowed the audiobook from the Gardiner Library. I must have been 13 or 14 the first time I read it, and could not possibly have appreciated how deeply sinister this story is. Whether or not one believes the governess, something is very, very wrong here, and the implications in every direction are horrifying. Henry James is no more compassionate toward his characters here than in any of his other works, but in this setting, that's appropriate.

J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan. While I was checking out audiobooks, I took this one, too; I hadn't read the book since seventh grade. I had forgotten, or maybe never realized, how much of this book is social satire, as well as adventure for children and for the young at heart. It's hard to overstate how influential this story has been on our popular culture, and it's surprising to think that the story is only about 100 years old.

Peter Behrens, The Law of Dreams. This beautiful first novel is the story of how Fergus escapes the famine that left his family dead in County Clare and makes his way to Dublin, London, Liverpool and finally Canada. The novel encompasses only a year, but Fergus seems to live his whole life in that year, as he finds and loses love and finally realizes that nothing can interfere with his overwhelming need to live. Gorgeous, sad, triumphant.


Paul Tomme said...

How do you feel about adjectives used as nouns?

Wile E. Coyote

AnswerGirl said...

That's a time-honored literary device, a form of metonymy -- using an attribute to identify an object -- so I have no problem with that.

I'm also quite fond of the German and Irish practice of prefacing certain proper names with "The," to denote uniqueness or preeminence. Some of us, for instance, refer to one of my cousins as "The Moira."